BY THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL INVESTMENTS LIMITED
GEORGETOWN, GUYANA, November 22, 2020: NICIL’s attention was drawn to a document currently circulating in the public domain which purports to be part of the minutes of NICIL’s Board Meetings, an official record of NICIL. This document seems to be relied upon by Mr. Colvin Heath-London the former Chief Executive Officer (Ag) of NICIL during his interrogation by members of the Guyana Police Force.
This unsigned document has been carefully examined by NICIL and it has been concluded that is it neither a document emanating from NICIL nor is it part of the minutes of any Board Meeting of NICIL.
NICIL’s Board Meetings are recorded and minuted by the Company Secretary in a particular style and format and all such minutes and records are kept by the Company Secretary.
The document currently in circulation is absolutely inconsistent with and does not meet the standardized format of NICIL Board Meeting minutes or any NICIL document.
The said document is titled a ‘Board Note’ from a meeting of the board of NICIL. There is no document in NICIL’s records which is styled a ‘Board Note’. In any event and most importantly, the content of that document and the decisions contained therein are not recorded in any minutes of any meeting of the Board of NICIL on that date or at all.
In the circumstances, NICIL will formally request that the Guyana Police Force investigate that document as an alleged forgery.
Supergraphics Enterprise, another company that entered into an agreement with the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to purchase lands while the then Government was in a caretaker mode, has agreed to return its 5 acres of land.
This was revealed in a statement on Monday by the company’s principal, Eton Cordis. According to Cordis, the Agreement of Sale he entered into with NICIL was for five acres of land at Ogle, East Coast Demerara (ECD), which would have been used to construct 95 premium apartments. However, the Agreement of Sale was entered into on June 15, 2020, over three months after a disputed election was held and just days after a recount of the votes proved that the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government had lost the elections.
“Given the circumstances surrounding the vesting of that property, we announce that we have agreed to surrender our interests in those lands with NICIL. We look forward to working with NICIL and the Government of Guyana towards achieving our development goals,” Cordis said in his statement.
Supergraphics is the latest in a line of investors who had land vested to them by NICIL and former Finance Minister Winston Jordan, despite the fact that the Government was in a caretaker mode and as such, should not be entering into new agreements until elections are held and a new Government elected.
As of October 6, 2020, four companies had announced that they surrendered to NICIL, large tracts that were given to them under controversial and nontransparent circumstances by the then APNU/AFC caretaker Administration.
The companies that have since reverted lands to the State are Navigant Builders Incorporated – the developers of Windsor Estates; Cardiology Services Incorporated; the Corum Group; and American Marine Services Incorporated.
In all of those cases, the firms had expressed a desire to work with the new People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration to get the necessary approvals needed to pursue their respective developmental goals.
But these are just a few companies that benefited from lands under questionable circumstances under the previous Administration. In this regard, President Dr Irfaan Ali during a recent interview with this publication had made it clear that the Government cannot tolerate a situation where lands were allocated to persons and no monies were paid, but yet, vesting orders were issued. He had encouraged others to revert their lands and reapply in a transparent process.
Navigant Builders had received several acres of land at Goedverwagting and Sparendaam on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) to develop a luxurious gated community under the Windsor Estates brand. Cardiology Services Incorporated, whose Managing Director is renowned cardiologist Dr Mahendra Carpen, had secured lands on the ECD to construct a state-of-the-art private hospital.
Corum Group, whose Managing Director is Clairmont Cummings, had acquired five acres of land at Ogle, ECD, to develop a high-class hotel under the Holiday Inns brand. American Marine Services Incorporated, which had received some 20 acres of land, had plans to construct a 247-unit residential complex.
In an interview with this publication last month following the initial return of State lands, Attorney General Anil Nandlall had been very critical of the transactions. He had pointed out that in some cases, the former Government vested lands to persons with partial and even no payments.
“The principles of transparency and accountability require State assets to be disposed in a particular way… either obtain a valuation certificate to determine the market value or advertise the property publicly and allow a fair and transparent process to take place so that everyone is offered a fair opportunity to compete for the property.”
“We had transactions where not only those procedures were violated, but where there was absolutely no money paid. Or only a fraction of the purchase paid and title passed to the purchaser. Now that is criminal conduct,” the AG had said.
According to him, this will be a thing of the past as the Government forges a new, more transparent path. Nandlall assured that the PPP Government will ensure State land which has to be sold is valuated and sold through a legal process, ensuring the State receives its due. (G3)
PROMINENT Attorneys-at-law, Sanjeev Datadin and Devindra Kissoon, have been appointed to chair the board of directors of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) respectively.
Both Datadin and Kissoon have been practising law for several years and had recently appeared in high profile cases leading up to the recent General and Regional Elections and during the five-month impasse, which ended on August 2, 2020.
The attorneys have a new challenge ahead, as they take charge of companies which have been affected immensely by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Decreased arrival rates due to the closure of international airports have not only reduced income earned by those facilities, but have also impacted the hotel industry because of low visitor rates.
Datadin, while at CJIA, will be supported by David Ramdeol, Shawn Richmond, Savitree Sharma, Dawn Elis, and prominent neurosurgeon, Dr. Amarnauth Dukhi, who are all members of the new board.
Over at AHI, which is the parent company of the Guyana Marriott Hotel, the other members of the board include Marcia Nadir-Sharma, Attorney-at-Law, Yolander Persaud, Ariane McLean, Leader of “The New Movement”, Dr. Asha Kissoon, Rabin Chanderpal, Joel Bhagwandin, Maurice Gajadhar, and Vanelda Harris.
Meanwhile, government has also announced the appointment of a new board of directors to the Skeldon Energy Inc. The new board will be chaired by Dr. Grayson Haley with Adrian Anamaya as vice-chair.
Other members of the board include Wayne Watson, Loris Nathoo, Radha Krishna Sharma, Zamal Hussain, and Errol Assar.
Those persons replaced Colvin Heath-London (chairman), Leslie Gonsalves, and Kim Williams-Stephen.
The Skeldon Energy Inc is a special purpose company owned by the Government’s holding company, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), and the Guyana Power and Light (GPL). The company has oversight for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo)’s co-generation plant.
– rescinds vesting order, requests properties be re-issued in more transparent manner
NAVIGANT Builders Inc, the developers of Windsor Estates, on Thursday, announced that it was postponing plans to continue its Ogle Development Project and cancelled all payments to National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Navigant Builders, in February last, had planned to construct a premier luxury, commercial and residential community at Ogle, East Coast Demerara.
The intention was to develop 30 acres of land which were once used for sugarcane cultivation. The investment was pegged at US$84 million.
“In June 2020, unknown to Navigant, NICIL vested the property to us which was subject to our agreement of sale; though we had indicated, in writing to NICIL, that we cannot move ahead with the said project until such time as the elections crisis was resolved,” President and CEO, Danny Sawh, a US-based Guyanese Entrepreneur said.
In light of the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the transfer of title, Sawh, in a press release stated “we hereby announce that we would like to rescind the Vesting Order and revert such title back to NICIL, thus to enable the Government of Guyana to reclaim all lands and re-issue such properties in a more transparent manner.”
The US-based Guyanese entrepreneur said his company intends to embark on a signature urban mixed-use development on the East Coast of Demerara, featuring luxury residential properties and Class A office space in the near future and looks forward to working with NICIL and the Government of Guyana in this endeavor.
The sod turning ceremony at the site of the construction for the Windsor Estates Housing Development
Windsor Estates, which was undertaking a project at Ogle, East Coast Demerara to build luxury residential properties and Class A office spaces, has announced that it is handing back the title and the land to the Government for it to be reissued in a more transparent manner.
Windsor Estates had planned the project under a company called Navigant Builders, which immediately after the elections announced that it was postponing plans to continue the development and cancelled all payments to NICIL, the government’s investment arm.
In June 2020, the company said NICIL vested the property in its name without its knowledge, even though it had indicated in writing to NICIL that it could not move ahead with the project until the elections crisis was resolved.
“In light of the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the transfer of title, we hereby announce that we would like to rescind the Vesting Order and revert such title back to NICIL, thus to enable the Government of Guyana to reclaim all lands and re issue such properties in a more transparent manner,” the company stated in a press release which was also issued by NICIL.
The company said it intends to embark on a signature urban mixed-use development “in the near future and looks forward to working with NICIL and the Government of Guyana in this endeavor.”
In its press release, Cardiology Services Inc. stated that “without the knowledge and participation of Cardiology Services Inc. the property was vested in Cardiology Services Inc. though the financial terms of the transaction had not been completed.”
The Vesting orders were signed by the former Minister of Finance under the APNU+AFC Government Winston Jordan.
— new CEO says squatting will not be encouraged, persons must go through system
The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has issued a stern warning to persons who have taken up residence and erected structures on its land, particularly in areas along the East Coast of Demerara (ECD).
In a recently published notice, NICIL warned that it has not authorised anyone to “occupy, remain or construct” any structures on vacant lands which were previously canefields south of the Railway Embankment in Vryheid’s Lust, Success and Chateau Margot.
“Any person(s) who enter, occupy or remain on those lands are trespassers and NICIL is hereby requesting that they immediately vacate and remove therefrom all erections or buildings constructed thereon forthwith,” the notice says, adding that all lawful steps will be taken if such persons do not comply with the order.
When contacted, newly-appointed interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL, Radha Krishna Sharma explained that the agency has received reports of squatters taking up residence on what is essentially NICIL property.
“The Ministry of Housing engaged the communities to let them know. Housing has to be looked at in a structured way. We just can’t have circumstances in which persons squat here and squat there. It has to be in a regulated manner.”
“So, the Ministry got involved, we got involved, because they’re not lands where you can just put up a (structure). There are 50,000 applications that they’re processing. Things have to be done in a legal manner so that the infrastructure can be put in place. In the best interests of communities, we can’t encourage this.”
This publication had previously reported that mass squatting was taking place in several villages along the East Coast of Demerara (ECD). Guyana Times understands several illegal structures were erected on Government reserves in Good Hope and Enmore, ECD.
Residents in the aforementioned areas told Guyana Times that persons from out of the areas have erected shacks along the reserves. In some cases, these shacks are erected in one day. A Government official when contacted told Guyana Times that this behaviour will not be tolerated and the matter will be addressed as soon as possible.
He noted that the Government has not authorised the grabbing of land in those communities. In 2015, there was a similar occurrence in Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD). The then APNU/AFC Government had also stated that no permission was given for squatters to take up Government reserves.
Last month, the Housing and Water Ministry also served Cummings Lodge/Sophia squatters with warning notices as it reiterated its zero-tolerance policy for the illegal act of squatting. In a statement, the Ministry said that it is urging persons to desist from illegally occupying State Lands. It noted that it has received reports of new structures being built on reserves within the Cummings Lodge/Sophia environs.
As a result, the enforcement arm of the Ministry served contravention notices to squatters of Cummings Lodge Phase 2, East Coast Demerara, Cummings Park, and the Section C Entrance.
According to the Ministry, these persons were not occupying the named locations at the time of the agency’s last inventory, which means they recently moved into the locations and started construction.
The Ministry had also said that the illegal occupation of State Lands at Cummings Lodge continues to hinder officials from carrying out the planned budgeted projects, and had appealed to the squatters to immediately cease all activities and allow the systematic allocation process to resume.
Since his appointment last month, Housing Minister Collin Croal has already made it clear that there would be a strict zero-tolerance policy against new squatting under the PPP/C Administration and that this Administration would be working towards ensuring existing squatters have a housing unit at the appropriate time.
Croal had disclosed that there was a backlog of some 68,000 housing applications, which he inherited from the APNU/AFC Government. He noted that the handling of house lot distribution saw new applications being favoured over existing ones thus contributing to the backlog.
In spite of a request for adjournment by lawyers involved in the case filed to challenge the sale of prime lands along the East Coast Demerara, High Court Justice Sandra Kurtzious handed down a decision yesterday afternoon in which she dismissed an application by Kaieteur News Publisher, Glenn Lall to quash the transactions.
Lall moved to court last July to have the sale of 130 acres of lands on the East Coast Demerara (ECD) by A Partnership For National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government quashed following revelations of a massive sale of prime property by the then de facto administration.
Kaieteur News Publisher, Glenn Lall
The case which lists former Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, (NICIL) and the Attorney General as respondents, is yet to receive a response from Jordan.
NICIL, on the other hand, has through its lawyer, Devindra Kissoon, presented arguments for the case to be discharged.
The court was scheduled to provide a ruling on those contentions yesterday.
However an email from both Kissoon and Sanjeev Datadin, the attorney representing Lall, was sent to the Judge on Wednesday evening informing her that newly appointed board at NICIL was requesting a two weeks adjournment of decision from the Court to review the transactions.
Before rendering decision, Justice Kurtzious noted that though she was in receipt of the email she would not entertain the request for an adjournment at this time, since any decision of the Court will not impact on NICIL’s decision to review the transaction. The ruling is nonetheless set to be appealed by Datadin who had vehemently opposed the NICIL’s application to dismiss the case.
At the interim, the Judge based her decision to dismiss Lall’s case on three main issues. Among them, she accepted the view by NICIL’S lawyer that the company has the power to privatize in accordance with Section 8 of the Public Corporations Act.
The Judge held too that, that power to transfer “should be taken in its literal sense –Section 8 of the Public Corporations Act empowers the Minister to do just that which he has done.”
Further, the Judge found that that Lall had no locus standi (legal standing) to institute the proceedings and no standing to prosecute the claim since among other things, he failed to comply with Part 56.02 of the Civil Procedure Rules which outlines prior to the filing of the claim, that is, when issuing a proceeding for administrative orders, the applicant must file a notice of claim for the administrative orders.
Additionally, the Judge found that too that Lall was in default of correcting the defect by seeking relief from sanctions as stipulated under the Civil Procedure Rules.
In view of the findings, the Judge dismissed the case against all parties and awarded costs in the sum of 300,000 — $100,000 be paid to each respondent.
The case over the massive land deal was filed after the vesting orders, bearing Jordan’s signature, were posted on Facebook immediately raising questions as to how so many acres of land were sold in a day and also mounting suspicions that the then Coalition government was giving away lands before demitting office.
Elections were held on March 2nd.
The information pointed to publications of the Official Gazette of orders numbered No. 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72 and 73.
Lall’s application asked the court to overturn the sale on the grounds that the sale was unlawful, made without legal authority, ultra vires, malicious, made in excess of jurisdiction, made without adequate legal consideration, null void and of no legal effect.
He referred to Sections 8 and 11 of the PCA, which stipulates that the Minister of Finance is empowered to authorize the transfer of state properties from only entities of the state. The PCA and its provisions of vesting order in general are not intended to apply to private companies.
Citing specific sections of the PCA, Lall contended that the Minister cannot transfer property owned by NICIL to any private individual.
He noted that all of the entities to which the lands were sold are private companies and that the PCA and its provisions of vesting orders in general are not applicable to private companies which meant that the purported transfer by Jordan was unlawful, ultra vires and null and void.
Lall contended too that “The essential and key precondition of the statue is that it applies to property of State being transferred to an entity under the control of the Minister, there is no authority to vest the specific State to these companies as mentioned in Orders published in the Official Gazette.”
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